Origins of the Chaine des Rotisseurs

At the time when guilds built the cathedrals, Europe also experienced the beginnings of fine music, literature, painting, theatre, the fine arts and also the art of cooking. The guilds set up their internal structures with Apprentices, Journeymen, and Masters, titles which were awarded after presenting a ' masterpiece' to their peers.

In 1248, Saint Louis, King of France, thanked the craftsmen which had contributed towards the construction of the Sainte Chapelle by founding the guild of the 'oyeurs', the geese roasters, because geese were a poultry greatly appreciated during the Middle Ages. The royal award together with the coat of arms for the master rotisseurs was bestowed in 1610. During five centuries the Brotherhood of the Roasters cultivated and developed culinary art until it was disbanded together with all the other guilds in 1793 by the French Revolution.

Fortunately, this was not the end of culinary art after World War Two, five French gastronomes decided to revive the spirit of the old guild and in 1950 the Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs was formed in Paris under the guidance of Curnonsky, A. Becart, J. Valby, L. Giraudon and M. Dorin.

This association of people dedicated to the art of fine cooking devoted itself to developing and promoting gastronomic values with special emphasis on skewer and grilled dishes whilst at the same time widening its focus to table art in the broadest sense of the word.

By reviving the traditions most deeply rooted in French culture, which Brillat Savarin pertinently described in his 'Physiology of Taste' by the words: ' you are born a rotisseur and you become a cook', the Chaine des Rotisseurs is restoring a heritage which was never really lost. Through its presence in 120 countries this organisation is spreading French culinary values throughout the world and asserting France's international role in the field of culinary art.

“The Founding Days…How it all began” by Fil Juntereal

It all began with a bottle each of 1969 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild and 1973 Grunlack Schloss Johannisberger sent to my Hugo’s restaurant table with the compliments of the Hyatt Hotel general manager. It was early in 1975 – I was commencing my Singapore Posting, and was at dinner with my wife, Chit, and my visiting New York head office CEO in the Hyatt, where we were billeted for over a month while impatiently waiting out the completion of some major repair work to our newly leased government bungalow in Adam Park. I was stupendously flattered by the munificent gesture that I promptly called the following morning on then Hyatt general manager Bernd Chorengel to personally convey my appreciation for the previous evening’s gift of delicious nectar. It was a warmly cordial meeting which pleasurably and lengthily took a turn to talks on the wines of the Rheingau, gastronomy in general, and – the notion of forming a Singapore chapter of the Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs. Parenthetically, I was Senechal of the Bailliage des Philippines when it was originally established in 1972, eventually becoming Bailli des Philippines until my transfer in 1975 to my company’s Singapore Southeast Asia regional office.

Bernd was most enthusiastic and wholly supportive in his reaction to the idea of a Chaîne presence in Singapore, and after further discussions of the history of the Chaîne and germane membership and operational guidelines, he cited the following names to constitute the nucleus of the Singapore chapter: Hilton GM Lim Ewe Hin, Jeffrey Cheam, Bobby Lim, Chandran Arul, Shangri-La GM Larry Magnan. Subsequent meetings of the group generated additional personalities, namely: Kenneth Chia, Bill Goie, Alex Eu, Bill Chen, Howe Soo Kee, Chefs Christian Schild (Holiday Inn), Martin Maese (Mandarin Hotel), Leo Waldmeir (Hilton Hotel), Marco Polo GM Dario Regazzoni and Oberoi GM John Esterhaszy.
With the fundamental membership and organizational issues resolved, I initiated an exchange of correspondence with the Chaîne siege mondial in Paris which culminated a few months later in a visit to Singapore by Grand Chancelier Jean Valby along with Rene Gessler, Administrator of “Bonne Table”, the official organ of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs. Bernd Chorengel hosted a superb lunch at the Hyatt following the installation by the Grand Chancelier of the following officers and members of the Singapore Chapter: French Ambassador to Singapore Jacques Gasseau, Chevalier d’Honneur; Fil Juntereal, Bailli Délégué; Bernd Chorengel, Chancelier; Bobby Lim, Argentier; Lim Ewe Hin, Charge de Presse; Larry Magnan, Conseiller Culinaire; Dario Regazzoni, Conseiller Gastronomique; George Savio, Martin Maese, Harro Preuss and Christian Schild, Chef Rotisseurs.
The luncheon menu orchestrated by chef Harro Preuss was outstanding and deservedly merited a special commendation from the Grand Chancelier. Marla Chorengel, Bernd’s wife, unselfishly provided her personal Waterford wine glass service for the exceptional 1970 Corton Charlemagne Comtes de Grancey (my scribbled note on this wine from Bobby Lim: “a great wine of the highest class, distinguished, pale gold, tremendous bouquet and flavor”). During the lunch, a waiter inadvertently broke one of Marla’s Waterford glasses: a veritable harbinger of the many, many years of bon appétit and genuine fellowship ahead of the Chaîne Singapore chapter.

Fil Juntereal